Life on the little island of Barbados.
Just 21 miles in length, Barbados is a small island, but despite its size it is packed with culture, beauty and character. I recently had the pleasure of exploring this Caribbean gem for a few days with my camera firmly in hand.
While the first thing that comes into most people's head when thinking about Barbados, or any other islands sharing the Caribbean Sea, is soft sandy beaches, there is so much more to this island thank its (stunning) shoreline.
I found myself in Bridgetown on a number of occasions, the island's capital, and only, city. Bridgetown is full of life and colour. While maintaining a relaxed Caribbean culture, its British colonial heritage was evident - it's main riverside area slightly reminded me of a British seaside town with its promenade and yachts. Each time I found myself in Bridgetown, there was something new to discover - even though the city itself is small, it is packed with opportunities to explore.
If there's one thing I would think of as an instant symbol of Barbados's culture, it would be its erratic, yet efficient, yellow busses. While there are a number of busses which service the island, the yellow busses give the best flavour of island life. They are privately owned and for just $1 you can go as far as the route allows. Hopping onto the bus, you are most likely to be greeted by local music playing loudly through large speakers and it's almost certain that the bus will be standing room only - if you're lucky and hop on at night, there may even be flashing disco lights to create the perfect party atmosphere. These busses offer an immersion into local culture and most of my travelling across the island was done on these - although if you end up somewhere remote, be willing to wait a while for the next bus to screech around the corner and pick you up!
A glass of rum punch is almost cheaper than water; this dark spirit made from sugarcane is almost an institution on the island, with locals enjoying an afternoon drink at the local rum shack in a similar way that the British head for a pint at the pub after work. One of my favourite activities on the island was rum tasting, I promise you it's not just because they made me slightly tipsy on all the rum, but the tour at Mount Gay distillery offered insight into the history and production of rum on the island. I was tempted to go back and re-do the tour on the next day it was that good!
It's not hard to find somewhere to enjoy a good local rum punch, every few meters there's a bar or rum shack - each with their own recipe for what makes the perfect punch. Maybe next time I'm on the island I'll have to do a comparison and work out which one makes the best rum punch...
The town of Speightstown is another place I visited a few times, it had a quieter feel to Bridgetown and felt more local. With street markets offering delicious fresh vegetables to locals looking for ingredients for dinner. Beyond its street market, it has a beautiful walk along the seafront - offering perfect sunset views from one of its collection of restaurants and beach bars.
One thing that I love about Barbados is how green it is, everywhere you turn there are trees, often abundant with mangos, coconuts and seeds. It's amazing how one minute you can be on the beach with the vast ocean in-front of you and the next you are engulfed in woodland, with a monkey leaping overhead; its environment keeps you constantly curious.
While there is so much to do in Barbados, its shores are the jewel in its crown - not just beautiful on the beach, but once you step into the sea and have a look underneath the water, the marine wildlife is beautiful. It's an island you can explore during the day, and then at the end of the day you can head to the beach to enjoy the sunset with a rum punch in hand.
Barbados, I'm sure I will be back.